EXPLORE: Gettysburg Ghost Hunting

A couple of weeks ago, I met my friends up in Gettysburg to try our hand at a little ghost hunting.  I used to work with a guy who was an avid paranormal seeker, and he would tell me stories of trips he took around the DC area.  He often visited Gettysburg due to its proximity and the high volume of documented stories.  Many, if not most, of these stories were collected and published by Mark Nesbitt in his Ghosts of Gettysburg series.  Due to the popularity of the series, Nesbitt established the first ghost walking tour in Gettysburg. 

A few years ago, I visited Gettysburg with my parents and asked the park ranger if he could tell me some of the ghost sighting stories.  He said that he believed in God and did not believe that his God would be so cruel as to not allow the victims of the battlefield, after all the torture and pain they endured prior to their deaths, to finally rest and find their peace.  As nice as that sentiment was, I left our tour feeling unsatisfied because I am fascinated by the idea of ghosts and paranormal activity.  And equally freaked out about it!

Why it took me several years to travel the short distance back up to Gettysburg to find my stories, I don’t know, but I’m glad I went.  And I’m very glad that we just happened to plan our outing on November 19th.  If you’re like me, you’re wondering what is so important about that date.  I started to wonder myself when we parked our car and realized that we clearly did not get the memo about dressing up in period costume.  Silly me thought that maybe that’s just how downtown Gettysburg is on the weekend.  Well, come to find out that November 19th is the day, in 1863, that Abraham Lincoln traveled to Gettysburg to commemorate the completion of the reburial of battlefield dead in the new Soldier’s National Cemetery at Gettysburg — not to headline the event (that spot was reserved for Edward Everett, a popular pro-Union speaker, and his 2 hour oration) but to follow that speaker with a short three minute speech that would forever be remembered as The Gettysburg Address.

Luminaries at the National Cemetery

So every year, Civil War period reenactors descend on Gettysburg to gather with friends — and have one more excuse to dig in the closet and break out the blue and gray wool.  My friend was challenging herself to take as many photos as possible of the reenactors doing everyday 21st century activities – like paying the parking meter, talking on a cell phone, eating at the diner, etc.  I, on the other hand, was saving my battery for later because I was determined to capture something abnormal and spooky on one or both of our tours.

This is what ghost hunters look like, in case you were curious

Our night began on the 7pm Steinwehr Avenue tour, at the meeting point adjacent to the National Cemetery, and progressed as we made our way down to the famous field where Major General George Pickett led his ill-fated charge of infantry men towards the Union lines.  I had been snapping photos randomly, with my flash, during the tour in the hopes that I would capture one of those balls of energy or paranormal orbs that people often claim are in their photos. 

 
Shooting towards National Cemetery

I thought I captured a few on some of my first shots of the night, but unfortunately after some research on the internet when returned home, I’m forced to admit that I think they are just specks of dust.  Boo!  OK, maybe not the bright one???  You tell me!

Enlargement of center of photo above.

So, while I may not have captured anything on the Steinwehr Avenue tour on camera, I can report that something strange did happen.  When I drove to Pennsylvania, my camera battery was showing a half charge.  When we got to the Pickett’s Charge field, my battery was drained!!!  No, I wasn’t taking THAT many pictures!!  If you’ve ever read anything about haunted areas, you may have seen testimonies about electronic device failures.  Just look up Devil’s Den battlefield site ghost stories.  Many describe complete failure of cameras that were fully charged.  All I know is that I came with half a battery, my camera died, then it returned to life again once we were a good distance away from the field.  Explain that!

Our second tour of the night was the 9pm Carlisle Avenue tour that led us to and around the Gettysburg College campus.  This is a very haunted campus!  Battles during Gettysburg were not confined to the fields around town.  Many firefights occurred on city streets, and Gettysburg College was not spared.  One of its original buildings, Pennsylvania Hall, was turned into a hospital.  And that is where one of the most popular ghost stories is set.

Two administrators were working late on the upper floors one night in the 1980s.  They finished their work and entered the elevator to start their journey home.  Even though they had pressed the button for the Lobby/1st Floor, the elevator bypassed their stop and went to the basement instead.  The doors opened up onto a massive triage scene with blood covered doctors and orderlies and piles of amputated appendages.  Right before the elevator doors responded to the administrators’ frantic pushing of buttons, an orderly turned to them and asked for help.  When a campus security officer returned, soon after, the basement was simply the storage space he expected to see.

Now that I have you, hopefully, sufficiently spooked, I encourage you to come to Gettysburg — if not to learn more about one of the Civil War’s most devastating battle with the highest number of casualties, then to go on an adventure with the paranormal.  Who knows what YOU may capture on your camera…..

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